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India

Maoist rebels blow up bus by detonating landmine, killing five in restive Indian state a week before it goes to the polls

  • The rebels have been fighting the government for more than four decades, have thousands of fighters and control vast swathes of territory in several Indian states
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 November, 2018, 10:59pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 November, 2018, 10:59pm

Maoist rebels killed five people including a paramilitary soldier on Thursday by detonating a landmine under a bus in a restive central Indian state where legislative elections are to be held next week

It was the second attack in Chhattisgarh inside 10 days and came just a day ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the state where he will be campaigning for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Two other soldiers were wounded in the attack, according to senior police officer D.M. Awasthi.

Mineral-rich Chhattisgarh goes to the polls on Monday with a second round on November 20 – the election has been staggered because of the security situation.

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The Maoist rebels, inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, have been fighting the Indian government for more than four decades, demanding land and jobs for tenant farmers, the poor and indigenous communities. They have thousands of fighters and control vast swathes of territory in several Indian states.

The bus was coming down a hill when it hit a landmine
D. Raghushankar, police superintendent

The latest attack occurred in Dantewada district, a Maoist stronghold where the guerillas killed two policemen and a journalist on October 30.

In the latest incident, police said the victims were returning from picking vegetables and other rations for paramilitary forces deployed in the area.

“The bus was coming down a hill when it hit a landmine,” said police superintendent D. Raghushankar.

“Four civilians and one CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) personnel have lost their lives.”

Chhattisgarhhas been governed by the Hindu nationalist BJP for 15 years, and Chief Minister Raman Singh who is seeking a fourth term has blamed the rebels for impeding development projects in the state.

The Maoists also known as Naxalites, have ambushed police, destroyed government offices and abducted officials. They have blown up train tracks, attacked prisons to free their comrades and stolen weapons from police and paramilitary warehouses.

Their decades-old insurgency is believed to have cost tens of thousands of lives. Critics say the government’s attempts to end the revolt through a no-holds-barred military offensive are doomed to fail.

Maoists are known to step up attacks in the lead up to elections, targeting railway lines and stalling mining operations.

In early October, the left-wing insurgents blew up a military vehicle in Chhattisgarh’s Bijapur district, killing four soldiers.